The Traditional Children's Games of England Scotland
& Ireland In Dictionary Form - Volume 2

With Tunes(sheet music), Singing-rhymes(lyrics), Methods Of Playing with diagrams and illustrations.

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say that the meaning of this term was first developed by Mr. Wright in his Anecdota Literaria, 1844, where he has printed two collections of ancient verses used in the game of " Ragman." Mr. Wright conjectures that the stanzas were written one after another on a roll of parchment; that to each stanza a string was attached at the side, with a seal or piece of metal or wood at the end; and that when used the parchment was rolled up with all the strings and their seals hanging together, so that the drawer had no reason for choosing one more than another, but drew one of the strings by mere chance, and which he opened to see on what stanza he had fallen. If such were the form of the game, we can very easily imagine why the name was applied to a charter wTith an unusual number of seals attached to it, which, when rolled up, would present exactly the same appearance. Mr. Wright is borne out in his opinion by an English poem, termed " Ragmane roelle," printed from MS., Fairfax, 16:—
" My ladyes and my maistresses echone, Lyke hit unto your humbyble wommanhede, Resave in gre of my sympill persone This rolle, which, withouten any drede, Kynge Ragman me bad me sowe in brede, And cristyned yt the merour of your chaunce; Drawith a strynge, and that shal streight yow leyde Unto the verry path of your governaunce."
That the verses were generally written in a roll may perhaps be gathered from a passage in Douglas's Virgil:—
" With that he raucht me ane roll: to rede I begane, The royetest ane ragment with mony ratt rime."
Halliwell also quotes the following:—
"Venus, whiche stant withoute lawe, In non certeyne, but as men drawe Of Ragemon upon the chaunce, Sche leyeth no peys in the balaunce."
—Gower, MS. Society of Antiquaries, 134, 244.
The term rageman is applied to the devil in " Piers Plough­man," 335.

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